By William Mills
The English summer weather sees swings from gales sweeping up the Channel to warm spells of settled weather.
During the latter the sky’s deep blue was reflected upon the surface of the water. The water is at its clearest. The English Channel is actually fairly shallow in oceanic terms so the tides and gales stir up the bottom silt giving the surface its muddy appearance. Once the weather settles down however, all the particles sink to the bottom leaving the sea looking deep, mysterious and inviting.
During gales the surface is turbulent but exciting. Large waves crash on to Brighton’s pebble beach. I kept the icy chill at bay by wearing wetsuit shoes and gloves. By covering the extremities it makes a big difference. Also in the event of a fall I hope they’ll provide some protection.
When I took the photos of the breaking waves it was half tide. Brighton’s beach slopes with loose pebbles underfoot before levelling out to a sandy base. At low tide one has to walk far out to sea to get any depth of water in which to swim. At half tide the slope is steep. When large waves break there is a strong undertow as the retreating wave pulls the pebbles with it, the effect is like trying to get a firm footing on a landslide.
I was knee deep as a wave came in. The force of water pushed me over, the undertow had me on all fours as the next wave came crashing on top of me. The pebbles were being flung with incredible force rather like Biblical stoning.
I was shocked. If I got a lung full of water or knocked out I would be in grave danger. Scrambling back above the water line I looked around for potential help.
The beach lifeguards were watching me. By chance I was swimming in one of their protected zones.
The life guard explained;
Diving through the big wave is the safest way to launch oneself. Then try to get back in like a surf board.
Now I always swim near them and during the summer they are on duty until 7pm.
Safe swimming this summer!